Balance of Trade (BOT)

The value of a country's exports minus its imports 

The value of a country's exports minus its imports is the balance of trade. It's the most essential part of the balance of payments, which tracks all foreign transactions. Because all commodities and many services travel through the customs office, it's simple to calculate.

Balance of Trade

The current account's largest component is the trade balance. It is a metric that quantifies a country's net income from international assets. It includes the trade balance as well as any other cross-border payments.

How to Calculate It

The trade balance is the difference between a country's exports and imports. This is the formula

EX - IM = TB 


  • EX = Exports
  • IM = Imports
  • TB = Trade Balance

Exports are goods or services produced in the United States and sold to a foreign country. This includes sending a pair of jeans to a friend in another country. It could also involve a transfer of signage from a corporate headquarters to a foreign branch. It is an export if the foreigner pays for it.

Imports are goods and services purchased by citizens of a country but manufactured in another country. It comprises gifts purchased by travelers visiting from other countries.

Transportation, motels, and meals are all examples of services supplied while traveling. It makes no difference if the company producing the goods or services is domestic or international. It would be an import if bought or made in another country.


When a country's exports surpass imports, it has a trade surplus. When exports outnumber imports, a trade deficit emerges. Surpluses appear to be preferable to deficits. This, on the other hand, is an oversimplification.

A trade deficit isn't always nasty; it could indicate that the economy is doing well. Furthermore, when accompanied by prudent investment decisions, a deficit may result in better economic growth.

1. Favorable Trade Balance

Many governments have policies in place to encourage trade surpluses. These countries prefer to sell more goods and receive more capital for their citizens, believing that this will result in a higher quality of life for their citizens and a competitive advantage for domestic businesses. 

This is true for some people, especially in the short term. But unfortunately, some countries turn to trade protectionism to sustain a trade surplus. Tariffs, quotas, and import subsidies are used to protect domestic industries. 

Other countries quickly retaliate with protectionist measures, resulting in a trade war. Inevitably, this leads to greater consumer costs, decreased international trade, and worsening economic conditions for all countries.


2. Unfavorable Trade Balance

A trade deficit can harm a country's economy, especially if it is based entirely on natural resource exports-this type of country imports many consumer products.

As a result, its domestic businesses lack experience in manufacturing value-added products. Instead, its economy is becoming more reliant on uncertain global commodities prices.

Some countries are so averse to trade deficits that they practice mercantilism, a form of nationalism whose goal is to attain and maintain a trade surplus at all costs. Tariffs and import quotas are examples of protectionist measures advocated by mercantile policies. 

While these measures may be beneficial in improving the trade balance, they frequently result in retaliatory protectionism, which leads to more trade imbalances.

The History of Mercantilism 

The dominant economic system in Europe between 1500 and 1800 was commercial. Every country wished to export more goods than it imported. In exchange, they were handed gold. It facilitated the demise of feudalism and the establishment of nation-states.


Merchants backed national governments to gain an advantage over the overseas competition.

For example, the British East India Company used 260,000 mercenaries to overthrow the princes of India. The firm then plunders its wealth while the British government protects the company's interests. 

The company's equity was held by a large number of members of Parliament. As a result, the Company's wins enriched the pockets of legislators.

Because the government employed military force to subjugate other countries, mercantilism depended on colonialism. Businesses used both natural and human resources discovered there. Profits fueled even further expansion, benefiting merchants as well as the government.

The worldwide gold standard and mercantile ideology went hand in hand. As payment for exports, countries traded gold. As a result, the gold-rich nations were the wealthiest. They may hire mercenaries and explorers to help them develop their empires.

Gold Standard

As a result, governments preferred trade surpluses rather than deficits to amass gold. The world's waterways were vital to national interests. Prosperous mercantilist countries created strong merchant marines and imposed high port tolls and regulations on foreign ships arriving with goods to sell.

For example, all European imports had to arrive aboard England's ship or a vessel registered in the country where the goods were manufactured.

How Trade Protectionism Works

A nation's trade protectionist policy is a calculated and deliberate effort to limit imports while increasing exporters. It is done to elevate the nation's economy above all other economies.


For example, if a domestic manufacturer produces more expensive goods than foreign imports, the government may impose tariffs or import taxes on the foreign-made products. 

Tariffs that tax imports are the most prevalent protectionist technique. Imported goods' prices skyrocket as a result. 

When compared to domestically made items, they become less competitive. Therefore, this strategy is most effective in countries with a large number of imports, such as the United States.

Governments frequently subsidize local industries to help them compete in the global market. Subsidies come in two forms: tax credits and direct cash payments.
Farms receive some of the most prevalent subsidies, which allow them to cut the price of the food they produce.

As a result, these subsidies make products more inexpensive to consumers while still allowing producers to profit.


Imposing quotas on imported commodities is the third option. This technique is more effective than the previous two. It doesn't matter how cheap a foreign country's subsidies make the price; it can't ship more goods.

Currency manipulation can make exports cheaper and more competitive in the near term, but it can also lead to retaliation from other countries, resulting in a currency war. Currency manipulation refers to a country's deliberate attempt to devalue its currency. 

A fixed exchange rate is one approach for governments to lower the value of their currency. Another currency manipulation method is creating so much national debt that the currency loses value.

Balance of Payment

In a country's balance of payments accounts, the payments and receipts of its citizens in transactions with inhabitants of other countries are documented. Each country's payments and revenues are, and must be, equal when all transactions are considered.

Any ostensible disparity merely results in one country acquiring assets in another. For example, if Americans buy autos from Japan and have no other dealings with the country, the Japanese will be left with dollars, which they can put in bank accounts in the US or invest in other US assets. 

Payments made by Americans to Japan for automobiles are offset by payments made by Japanese to people and institutions in the United States, particularly banks, for the purchase of dollar assets. 

To put it another way, Japan sold autos to the US, and the US sold cash or dollar-denominated assets to Japan.


Even though overall payments and revenues must be equal, there will be inequalities-excesses of payments or receipts, referred to as deficits or surpluses-in specific types of transactions. 

Merchandise commerce (goods), services trade, foreign investment income, unilateral transfers (foreign assistance), private investment, the flow of gold and money between central banks and treasuries, or any combination of these or other international activities can all have a deficit or surplus.

Imports and exports of goods, services, and capital, as well as transfer payments like foreign aid and remittances, make up the balance of payments (BOP).

The international accounts comprise a country's balance of payments and net international investment position.

The balance of payments divides transactions into two accounts: the current account and the capital account.

The capital account is frequently referred to as the financial one because it is recorded separately and is usually extremely small. 

The current account includes all product and service transactions, investment income, and current transfers.

The capital account includes financial instrument transactions and central bank reserves in its broadest definition.

However, it only refers to financial instrument transactions in a literal sense. The current account is taken into consideration for calculating national production, while the capital account is not.

When a country exports anything (a current account transaction), foreign capital is effectively imported (a capital account transaction). If a country's capital exports aren't enough to cover its imports, it will have to deplete its reserves.


Using a restricted definition of the capital account that excludes central bank reserves, this scenario is commonly referred to as a balance of payments deficit. However, the widely defined balance of payments must, by definition, equal zero.

Statistical disparities exist in practice due to the difficulties of precisely counting every transaction between one economy and the rest of the world, including differences created by foreign currency translations.

Difference Between Trade Balance and Balance of Payments

The balance of payments' most important component is the balance of commerce. The trade balance is increased by international investments plus net income earned on those assets.

A country might have a trade deficit while still having a balance of payments surplus. A substantial investment surplus could help to overcome a trade deficit. Only if the financial account has a large surplus will this happen. 

Foreigners, for example, could make large investments in a country's assets. They could invest in local businesses, buy real estate, or operate oil drilling activities.


Assets that generate future income, such as copyrights, are recorded in the capital account. As a result, it would rarely have a high enough surplus to make up for a trade deficit.
The differences have been summarized in the table given below:

Balance of TradeBalance of Payments
A country's balance of trade, or BoT, is a financial statement that indicates how much it imports and exports from other countries.The balance of payment, sometimes known as the BoP, is a financial statement that records all of a country's economic dealings with the rest of the world.
What exactly is it about?
It is concerned with a country's net profit or loss from the import and export of goods.It is concerned with the proper accounting and recording of the country's transactions.
Fundamental Distinction
Balance of trade (BoT) is the difference that is obtained from the export and import of goods.The discrepancy between the inflow and outflow of foreign exchange is known as the balance of payments (BoP).
Transactions of different kinds are covered.
Goods-related transactions are included in the BoT.BoP includes transactions including transfers, goods, and services.
Are capital transfers taken into account?
What is the overall effect?
The BoT can have a positive, negative, or zero overall effect.BoP's net effect is always zero.


The balance of payments is a broader economic unit that incorporates capital movements (money traveling to a country that pays high-interest rates), loan repayment, tourist expenditures, freight and insurance charges, and other payments.

The main component of a country's balance of payments is the balance of trade (BOT), which is the difference between the value of its imports and exports for a given time (BOP).

A country that imports more goods and services than it exports in terms of value has a trade deficit, while a country that exports more goods and services than imports has a trade surplus.

A favorable balance of trade was an essential way of financing a country's purchase of foreign commodities and maintaining its export trade, according to the economic theory of mercantilism, which reigned in Europe from the 16th through the 18th centuries. 


This was to be accomplished by establishing colonies that would acquire the home country's products and export raw materials (incredibly precious metals), which were an essential source of a country's wealth and power.

The assumptions of mercantilism were challenged by late-eighteenth-century classical economic theory, which argued that free trade is more beneficial than mercantilism's protectionist tendencies and that a country does not need to maintain an even exchange rate or, for that matter, build a surplus in its balance of trade (or in its balance of payments).

A continuing surplus may represent underutilized resources that could otherwise contribute to a country's wealth, were they to be directed toward purchasing or producing goods or services. 

Furthermore, a country's (or group of countries) excess may potentially cause abrupt and unequal changes in the economy of the nations where the surplus is eventually spent.

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Researched and authored by Rhea Rose Kappan | LinkedIn

Edited by Colt DiGiovanni | LinkedIn

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